(It's getting cold enough that I wish I had a tail to use as a scarf.)
Running an online business can feel bipolar at times, perhaps even more so when it's a side hustle. October was maybe my best month yet in terms of overall stability and feeling like I was moving things forward. November... not so much. This is partly self-inflicted. The SEO improvements I've been working through have started to yield results, and traffic was up nearly 15% month-over-month in November. With that traffic came more load on the render servers and more firefighting. By the time you throw in a heavy dose of holiday travel (which kept me more offline than most months), average preview render time jumped from 4:38 to 7:41. Yikes!
There wasn't much time to work on the render servers, unfortunately, but I was able to crank through the rest of the keyword and description updates. The last major content task I still have to work through is updating all of the existing video templates to the new system (currently about half way). I'm making some subtle tweaks to the templates as I go where I feel like I can improve things—changing a font here and there, removing some excessive filtering, tweaking text fields to allow for more characters. It can be slow goings at times, but it's actually pretty fun work. I studied film and animation in college before switching to programming in grad school, so a lot of these tasks feel like catching up with an old friend (one of the reasons I wanted to work on this site in the first place).
A Tale of Three Sales
When I took over IntroCave, the site wasn't doing many regular promotions (other than a survey you could fill out to get a 50% off coupon). I've tried a few different things since taking over, and I thought it might be fun to share some of those results.
Just drop a coupon in the newsletter. I've done this twice now—once on my very first newsletter and once just last month in November. Both were successful by my standards, which is to say it made more than the $10 or so it costs me to send out a newsletter. Because IntroCave users aren't that used to getting emails from me, my open rates are pretty terrible (7-10% on a normal newsletter). My analytics aren't quite good enough at this point to know if I'm making money on newsletters without coupons, so it's hard to say whether it's worth sending a newsletter yet.
Announce the coupon in the newsletter subject. I didn't think it would make much difference, but just adding "COUPON INSIDE" to the subject of a newsletter with a coupon got the open rate up to around 20% (2-3x better my normal bland email subjects). I'm more of a developer than a marketer, so this is probably a "no duh" takeaway for most people who've been doing this awhile. This seems like something you can only do a couple of times a year, though, so in the meantime, I've got to develop a few more subject lines that draw clicks.
Black Friday banner on the site. The developer/consumer in me beat the marketer in me on this one. Instead of sending out another Black Friday news blast to announce a sale, I just sneakily put up a banner. I thought people would have enough stuff in their inbox already. A few people did take advantage of it, but the overall sales on that day weren't any higher than a normal Friday. If anything this kind of tells me that there might be room to raise prices. If lowering prices didn't hurt conversion rates, it's probably worth testing what happens when prices go up!
I'll probably try to get more sophisticated with sales in 2019. All of these offers have gone out site-wide, but it should be possible to segment users based on purchase history (or lack thereof) and offer more personalized deals.